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Quest for democracy


by Oscar Allen 08.MAY.09

Our nation’s Constitutional reform process is strolling into its home stretch, funded as part of the Strengthening of Democracy programme in the Americas (an OAS programme). How does this reform measure up so far with regard to a strengthening or building of our democracy? In what ways will the resulting document take our politics, our law, and the texture of our community to more liberating heights than where they were 30 years ago?{{more}} Are we feeling the mood of progress as the process unfolds? Do we hold our breath as we look forward to welcome our new/reformed Basic Vincentian Law? Will it make a difference? What kind of difference? Perhaps we should hear some of the complimentary and the critical voices as they speak about our democracy and its heritage.

As he addressed the funeral assembly around the death of Walter Rodney, assassinated in Guyana, the writer George Lamming declaimed:

For democracy has never, never, been an organic part of our experience from the days of conquest, to colonization and slavery, up to the present arrangements that we enjoy

Mr. Lamming is clear; we cannot talk about ‘strengthening democracy’, but rather about building democracy, re rooting our power arrangements and our citizen experience. The Dominican historian and politician, William “Bill” Riviere, in a few words, painted the period before independence similarly as “a veiled gubernational dictatorship” Speakers on the other side are also clear. They tell us that our colonial rulers made us better off on our political arrangements than the unstable republics in South America and the uncivil conditions in the African continent. So, we come to constitutional reform with a heritage of colonial overrule, as our thinkers say; or with a heritage of political grace and privilege, given us by the British Empire and Westminster – as the colonial teaching goes.

One of the ‘traditions’ which we received from colonial parenting, is the multiparty electoral structuring of parliament and executive. Among us, it has produced a scandalous and cannibal drive towards democratic civil war. Political parties engage in a competition of each dog fighting to eat or cripple the other dog, they tear the society apart, reduce citizens to explicit cheerleaders, implicit mummies, occupational and constructive critics, and sufferers – a recipe for disorder and hatred. It is in this context that the People’s Movement for Change has proclaimed the only sane and saving political manifesto -”Country above Self, People before Party/ Politics: One People, One Nation”. We have to re root of politics and go in quest of the democracy that will consolidate the community, liberate our citizenry generate harmony and make a more interactive development emerge – A reform of constitution alone cannot bring about democracy, it may even put obstacles in the way of participatory power and citizen justice.

Take the present case where in our parliament of 21 members (15 + 6), all are political party persons. These party loyalists, almost independently of their own will, become leaders in the cannibal division and terrorizing of the community into party prison camps. A supposed democratic institution becomes its opposite. Clearly, what we need is an elected assembly in which there are persons in one house or chamber mainly put up by political parties, as well as persons in another chamber who are outside of party bondage, elected from and by their independent constituent/dominant associations or interest groups, for example, service professionals, farmers, commercial distribution networks, women, workers, students -educators -media,… Each chamber will have its mandate designed to complement the other.

But look at what the reform proposal is saying! Having 21 parliamentarians, all – in our tradition – loyal to the party and its divisive cannibal intention is not enough. The reform constitution is increasing the number of parliamentarians to 29 (some might say 25), but all chosen by parties, sitting in the same chamber and devoted to tearing the community into prison camps – one with state power, one without. This kind of reform cannot strengthen democracy, it consolidates terror and the members of our present parliament are all in favour of this strengthening of their terror over us!

Our Quest for Democracy is back to square one.